[Bell Historians] Dove inexactitudes

Chris Pickford c.j.pickford at t...
Tue Oct 1 16:22:10 BST 2002

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I'm grateful to Carl for his support on this, and for expanding on the pros=
and cons of the alternatives.

I agree (Carl's final paragraph) about the use of indicators to denote what=
weight we're talking about, EXCEPT that in "Dove" we should always be deal=
ing with the tuned or finished weight - without fittings. So his suggestion=
could be useful where a range of weights are discussed - but not in "Dove"

----- Original Message -----=20
From: Carl S Zimmerman=20
To: Bell Historians List=20
Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 4:02 PM
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] Dove inexactitudes

As one who has been compiling technical data about tower bells for=20
more than four decades (want an exact time period? it'll be wrong=20
tomorrow!), I concur enthusiastically with Chris Pickford's proposal.=20
Here's why:

Chris wrote:
>In an ideal world, one might give - sequentially - all recorded
>weights for a given bell, thereby making the status of each weight
>crystal clear. But where there's only one version this can't be
>done. I would argue that <7-1-16 (a neutral example where nobody
>worries about whether or not the bell is over a ton!) is more
>satisfactory than an arbitrary approximate weight (is it 7 1/4, 7 or
>6 3/4?) and avoids the risk of people re-submitting the exact weight
>that they've "newly" discovered.

In a compilation such as Dove's Guide or my own database of carillons=20
(and chimes) of the world, there are several different concerns which=20
the compiler attempts to balance. The two which may be the most=20
difficult to reconcile are the desire to be as informative as=20
possible and the necessity of presenting information in as compact a=20
style as possible. Yielding entirely to the first results in a=20
multi-page article about each installation, but takes so much space=20
(and reading time) that it is almost impossible to get a good overall=20
view of the field of interest. (The forest is obscured by the tree=20
trunk in front of one's face.) Yielding entirely to the second=20
results in a densely-packed and difficult-to-decipher table of=20
encoded technical minutiae. (The near-sighted person can't see=20
beyond the closest leaf to the surrounding forest.)

What made the original (printed) Dove's Guide so valuable to=20
generations of ringers and campanologists were two things: First, he=20
had found a format which presented useful information so as to be=20
both readable and portable. (Pocketable?) Second, he worked=20
diligently to make that information as accurate as possible within=20
the limitations of human error, historical ambiguity, etc. &c.

It seems to me that the real point of the present debate is how to=20
retain the virtues of Dove's Guide while also being more informative=20
about the meaning of one part of its content, namely, the "given"=20
tenor weight. (Let's not get into the argument about what a county=20
reference means; that's been done elsewhere!) All participants in=20
the debate have tacitly accepted that a single weight should continue=20
to be presented (though one may hope for the existence of an audit=20
trail behind it). Thus the argument is over what that weight should=20

I'm sure that we all understand the differences in meaning of the=20
traditional deliberate inexactitudes: "7 cwt" is less exact than "7=20
1/2 cwt" which is less exact than "7-1-16". And we expect that the=20
first two forms are estimates while the third is the result of the=20
bell being weighed, presumably by means of a scale that had been=20
properly calibrated by HM Standards Office (or whatever the proper=20
name of the appropriate agency is).

But those three expressions also have more strict meanings, thus:
7 cwt =3D> this weight is known or estimated to the nearest hundredweight
7 1/2 cwt =3D> this weight is known or estimated to the nearest integer=20
multiple of 56 pounds (and possibly also to the nearest integer=20
multiple of 28 pounds, although we can't be certain of that, since no=20
one writes "7 2/4 cwt")
7 1/4 cwt =3D> this weight is known or estimated to the nearest integer=20
multiple of 28 pounds
7-1-16 =3D> this weight is known to the nearest pound

In the past, it was generally assumed that over time one would=20
progress from a less exact to a more exact knowledge of the "true"=20
weight of a bell. That is, increased precision of measurement=20
implied increased accuracy of knowledge. But what started this=20
debate was recognition of a situation where that implication is=20
false--a bell whose weight was known to the nearest pound underwent=20
weight-reduction surgery, leaving it at a weight which is currently=20
unknown but certainly less than what was previously measured.

Arguments over whether to present the previous exactly-known weight=20
or the present inexactly-known weight reflect the debaters' personal=20
preferences, but fail to address the real problem. As has already=20
been pointed out, using the previous exact weight is a lie, and using=20
an inexact weight when an exact weight has been previously reported=20
can only cause confusion. Neither is desirable.

Chris's proposal has the twin virtues of simplicity and clarity. By=20
adding a single character to the formerly-exact weight, it is=20
possible communicate this fact: "The weight of this bell was=20
formerly known exactly; it has since been reduced by an amount that=20
is unknown but certainly exceeds one pound." Carrying 25 words of=20
information in one character is an economy of communication that is=20
hard to beat! And if that one character could be made a hyperlink to=20
the audit trail, so much the better. Even without that, there is no=20
risk of confusion with any of the other forms for reporting weights.

I'll also take this opportunity to propose a further extension of=20
Chris's idea. That is to include with any exact weight a character=20
which indicates how that weight was obtained (if known). For=20
example, "C" might indicate cast weight, "T" =3D tuned, "F" =3D with=20
fittings, etc. Not being in the business of weighing bells, I have=20
no idea how many such alternatives there might be, nor whether other=20
people would really find them useful. But this could be informative=20
without consuming much space.

=3DCarl Scott Zimmerman=3D Co-Webmaster: http://www.gcna.org=
Voicemail: +1-314-361-5194 (home) mailto:csz_stl at s...
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - 19th c. home of up to 33 bell foundries

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